Sunday, May 27, 2007

Why do NBA fans turn off?

As NBA watchers continue to act disinterested and bored, and both Conference Finals are still halfway competitive at 2-1 apiece, one has to wonder why everyone is so disgusted with the things that have taken place thus far in the NBA playoffs.

With the madness that occurred in the Western Semifinals, many were up in arms about the best series in the playoffs fouled up by a misguided rule and the overly strict implementation of it. The NBA was right in suspending Stoudemire and Diaw, but only because they had a specifically stated rule with clear-cut language. However, the NBA failed miserably in not having revisited this rule previously to at least have some discretion included. But, this issue has been hammered home so many times that it's tired, so we'll drop it for now.

The issue that is still at hand — why everyone is disinterested in the NBA right now — remains unsolved. I had the benefit of being out of the country when all of the Suns/Spurs bru-ha-ha went down, thus sparing me from all the rhetoric on both sides of the argument. So, coming into the situation, I have few biases spread by the national media. As an NBA fan, I am still interested in the playoffs, and will watch every game. But I am not excited. And, as I said before, I am not alone.

Before I start, I would like to make a few quick distinctions.
  • NBA fans are people who will follow happenings and games in the NBA no matter what.
  • Sports fans will follow sports, and will pay attention to the sport that is most compelling.
  • Fans of a specific NBA team may also be NBA fans in general, but that isn't always true.

    Here's are the reasons I have nailed down as the reasons everyone is so disenfranchised:

    1. Forgone conclusion
    In these conference finals, most sports fans and NBA fans have made the forgone conclusion that the Spurs will win the West and the Pistons will win the East.
    Predictability breeds disinterest, and until this thing has one of the underdogs take the lead in the series or push it to a seventh game, many sports fans will turn their attention elsewhere.

    2. Nash love
    America loves Steve Nash, a white superstar and a back-to-back-MVP. Without Nash in it, many sports fans and NBA fans became disinterested when the man they secretly (or openly) love is dispatched after having such an exciting, dominating season.

    3. Suns are exciting, others aren't
    With an up-tempo style that produces highlight after highlight when it is running on all cylinders, people love to watch Phoenix play. Every team left plays a much more grueling (or in Cleveland's case gruesome) style of ball.

    4. No superstars
    LeBron James is the only remaining sexy star left in the playoffs. Tim Duncan is a star, but doesn't command as much attention because of his lack of flash and for another reason that I'll get to in a bit. Utah's tandem of Boozer and Deron Williams may make waves in a few years, but aren't there yet. Detroit is a team, but no real individual stars really still exist.

    5. It's tainted
    Many sports fans are still bitter that the series that was most compelling to them — San Antonio vs. Phoenix — had an air of taint to it. When Robert Horry decked Nash and Stoudemire and Diaw flew off the bench, many saw this as an instinctual reaction, and with a lack of understanding or respect for the rules in place, many sports fans will scoff at the result of that series as another rigged NBA contest. Never mind the fact that if the NBA were going to rig it anyone's way, it would be the Suns, but that's a topic for another day.

    6. These aren't the matchups everyone has been waiting to see.
    All season, NBA watchers across the nation have been waiting to see Mavs vs. Spurs or Mavs vs. Suns. In the East, the nation would have much preferred a Bulls vs. Cavaliers Conference Finals. The Mavs didn't do their part, and the Pistons are way better than the Bulls, so nobody should really be surprised anyway.

    7. Same old thing
    It happens to every great team. People get tired of seeing the same successful teams over and over. Nowadays, the Spurs are always either winning it, or in the hunt. The Pistons are the same to a lesser degree.

    (Now here's the real reason, but it's the one nobody realizes or recognizes)

    8. Unattractive market
    Tony Parker said it best:
    "If our team was in New York, there would be a different perception of our team," Parker said. "They'd be talking crazy about Manu and Timmy and stuff like that. But we're in San Antonio. Don't get me wrong; I love San Antonio. But I'm just saying that different markets, I guess . . . if our team was in New York, it would be huge."

    This describes the subconscious attitude of many NBA fans and sports fans and I couldn't have said it better myself. It isn't just the Spurs right now, and right now, there are four of the least sexy markets in all of basketball (save Milwaukee and Minnesota) in the mix. Detroit has a metroplex of 5.4 million, Cleveland's has 2.2 million, San Antonio's has 1.9 million and Salt Lake City has a mere 1 million. As far as NBA markets go, Detroit is really the only one that is of any real size. Plus, who the hell ever wants to go to Detroit. It's bleak. Cleveland is a beleaguered sports town that hasn't ever really been successful and has little that is atttractive to the rest of the country besides LeBron. San Antonio is in the middle of Texas, and really has little else to offer of national interest beyond the Spurs and the Alamo. Utah...well, it's Utah.

    My point is that there isn't anything to compel national sports fans to these unattractive markets. There is something interesting about seeing things happen in New York, Los Angeles...hell, even a place like Denver or Phoenix.

    My question to my fair reader(s) is:

    Why is America disinterested in the NBA?

    Reasonably yours,

    E-mail us
  • 1 comment:

    Joe Ruiz said...

    I think a second question to add might be:

    Are international fans drawn to the NBA playoffs?

    Manu, Parker, Oberto, Okur, Kirilenko, Nash, Nowitzki, Varejao, Pavlovic, et al.

    But let's face facts, NBA fans are a dying breed. Hell, I barely watched the WCF and NBA Finals last season (but most of that was during the time of my new job and such) and even then, I was more interested in the WCF of Suns-Mavs than the NBA Finals.

    Anyway, I think one of the keys is piss-poor NBA marketing.

    For example, this is how important NBA marketing to large cities is...have you seen the commercial for the NBA Store where pretty woman, mid-20s guy, kids, etc., are parading around in NBA jerseys to show what's available?

    Look at the jerseys in that commerical (this is from memory, so I might be wrong on some of them).

    1. J-Kidd
    2. Nash (or it might have been Amare)
    3. Kobe
    4. Channing Frye

    Channing Frye? He couldn't find a consistent spot in our fantasy league this season, much less the Knicks rotation! Was Malik Rose's jersey unavailable for the shoot? They couldn't even use Stephon's? Channing Frye? A popular enough player that a little boy would seemingly be happy to parade around in his jersey while his friends rock Kobe and Nash.

    Here's the jersey list (via InsideHoops)

    Basketball Jerseys

    Official Most Popular NBA Jerseys List
    Updated Jan. 10, 2007

    basketball jerseys The Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant has the most popular jersey in the NBA, moving up three spots from the end of last season on the NBA's Most Popular Jersey List. Bryant, who had the most popular jersey during the 2002-03 season, regained the lead from the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade who held the top spot since May 2005. Wade drops to No. 2 on the list and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James comes in at No.3.

    The rankings are based on jersey sales at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City and since the start of the 2006-07 NBA season through Dec. 31, 2006.

    New teammates Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets round out the top five with the fourth and fifth most popular jerseys, respectively. Following the Dec. 19 trade to the Nuggets from the Philadelphia 76ers, Iverson moved up three spots on the list from his No. 7 rank before the trade.

    The Los Angeles Lakers remained No. 1 on the league’s Most Popular Team Merchandise List for the fifth consecutive season, while the NBA Champion Miami Heat moved up one spot to second. The New York Knicks rank third and the Chicago Bulls are fourth. The Cleveland Cavaliers made the largest jump on the list this year, moving up to No. 5 from No. 8 last year.

    The Washington Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas and 2006 T-Mobile Rookie of the Year Chris Paul from the New Orleans/OK City Hornets make their debut in the Top 15, coming in at No. 8 and No. 14, respectively.

    The NBA’s Most Popular Jersey List and the Most Popular Team Merchandise List are listed below.

    1. Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
    2. Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat
    3. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
    4. Allen Iverson – Denver Nuggets
    5. Carmelo Anthony – Denver Nuggets
    6. Steve Nash – Phoenix Suns
    7. Vince Carter – New Jersey Nets
    8. Gilbert Arenas – Washington Wizards
    9. Shaquille O’Neal – Miami Heat
    10. Stephon Marbury – New York Knicks
    11. Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks
    12. Tracy McGrady – Houston Rockets
    13. Paul Pierce – Boston Celtics
    14. Chris Paul – New Orleans/OK City Hornets
    15. Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs

    How many of those players in the top eight have been marketed in some form or another as "The Next Michael"?

    The NBA kind of has to, though.

    In football, while players are facially identified, they're still technically in helmets and massive padding.

    Baseball, while players are facially identified, they're still technically in hats and TV cameras aren't in their faces and the action so close to readily identify. Also, basketball and baseball's fan bases are indeed different.

    There's a historical identity to baseball while I can pick 20 random Spurs fans and I bet half can't tell me the city where the team originated from before moving to SA.

    You and I both know there are some damn good players in these series, how much of America knows?

    You're right. Casual fans wouldn't recognize the story and fun of Deron Williams' coming out party, Manu taking over quarters or Rip Hamilton's never-dying dedication to playing the game (and Cleveland sucks, so they get no love in this paragraph).

    Why is that? Because the NBA blew their marketing wad on Vinsanity, Carmelo and AI, LeBron and is now paying the price.

    Watch these two commercials (granted it's Nike, but it proves my point).

    The satirical nature of the second one isn't too far from the NBA's marketing.